Bobby Kimball comes clean
Bobby Kimball has defied the odds for rock stars who struggle to remain relevant after leaving their bands.
“There is a God and I’m happy where I am,” says Kimball, famous in the late 1970s and ‘80s as lead singer of the Grammy-winning band Toto. He’s in the country for a concert series that opened June 25 and continues tonight at the Tacloban Coliseum and July 4, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.
Kimball looks younger than his 64 years and appears to be in good shape, although he has gained weight since his heyday as the high-pitched soloist behind a number of Toto classics including “I’ll Supply the Love,” “Hold the Line,” “Make Believe” and “Rosanna.”
He holds no grudges about getting fired by the band in 1984, soon after Toto bagged six Grammys including record of the year (“Rosanna”) and album of the year (“Toto IV”). “We were doing a lot of drugs at that time and there was backstabbing within the band” he recalls.
The late drummer Jeff Porcaro, Toto co-founder, was designated band spokesperson on the day he was asked to leave, Kimball said. “I was told that I didn’t follow rules. Well, I really didn’t like taking orders from anyone.”
Resolving to pursue a solo career after cleaning up, Kimball was doing session work when he was asked, in 1989, to rejoin Toto to record a greatest hits album, “Past to Present 1977-90.” But the record label wanted South African singer Jean-Michel Byron to do the vocals for some new songs, so Kimball was taken out again.
Solo is fine
That must’ve been frustrating. But in 1997 he was back as Toto lead vocalist to record three more albums (1999’s “Mindfields,” 2002’s all-covers “Through the Looking Glass” and 2006’s “Falling in Between”). He even made it to Toto’s last concert at the Araneta Coliseum in 2008 before the group finally called it quits. (Toto occasionally tours without him now.)
Kimball says he’s doing fine as a solo artist. Last year he toured Germany with Lou Gramm, formerly of Foreigner, and Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, backed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. He just finished recording a duets album with Jimi Jamison, former lead singer of Survivor.
Although he points out that he’s very much “in the world,” he refuses to speak out on any particular issue that affects humanity. “These are things I don’t think about all the time,” he says. “You know, I don’t waste my time doing that…”
But he does remember his growing-up years in Vinton, Louisiana: “I’ve seen a lot of mistreating of people… I came from the South where white people and black people hardly communicate. I think racism is a terrible thing. That’s something I really dislike.”
He recounts learning his sense of rhythm from an elderly black guy who shined shoes for a living. “His name was Tenner; he would pop the rag to a New Orleans beat. He was in his 50s and I was 4. I used to watch him work, then I’d run home and start playin’ the piano.” Kimball adds, “Tenner had a bunch of kids and he was happy all the time. This was something I learned from him, too. Being happy is one of the most important things in life.”
Another thing that Kimball cares about is his advocacy on dogs. He and wife Jasmine are working on a TV show, “Saving K9 Lives,” which will air soon. He himself owns four dogs.
In his own view, success doesn’t necessarily mean financial security, even as he admits he likes it that he’s making more money now than he did with Toto: “I don’t have to divide it with 40 people—agents, managers, the road crew…” But he likewise affirms that the years spent with Toto weren’t so bad — he still receives royalties from the band.
For his Philippine shows, Kimball is not singing an all-Toto repertoire. “I’ll also be doing Led Zeppelin, Beatles and other covers.” He will be backed up by Zoo—the band originally fronted by Arnel Pineda.